Protesters place photos of refugees in rafts at the Trump Tower in New York in March 2017.(Photo: Drew Angerer, Getty Images)

A growing sense of futility pervades President Trump’s effort to temporarily bar people from certain Muslim-majority nations from entering America. The travel ban was deeply flawed policy from day one, and since then several federal judges have rejected it as unconstitutional.

The administration now wants the Supreme Court to rule on the latest version of the plan, which was unveiled three months ago. If the justices choose to hear the case, the president might find a receptive conservative majority. But he undercut his chances this week by tweeting that the new version is a “watered down, politically correct” variation on the original from January.

Even in an area such as immigration, where presidents have wide discretion, Trump has managed to find a barrier to his authority: First Amendment safeguards against religious discrimination. The latest version of Trump’s executive order “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination,” Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a May 25 ruling.

Trump’s directive would ban entry into the USA for 90 days of people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It would also bar all refugees for 120 days.

This is strangely arbitrary. None of the 9/11 terrorists was from the six countries, and since that attack, no one has been killed in the USA by a terrorist from that group of nations. The executive order cited only one example — of a refugee who came from Somalia as a child and who was later sentenced for terrorism-related offenses.

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Trump has been promoting the travel ban in the aftermath of the recent terrorist incidents in Great Britain. But last month’s suicide bombing in Manchester and the attack at London’s Westminster Bridge in March were committed by native-born citizens. Among the three assailants in the stabbing attacks near London Bridge over the weekend, one was from Pakistan, another from Italy and the third’s country of origin is as yet undisclosed.

Department of Homeland Security research found that immigrants from the six countries in Trump’s travel ban pose no unique risk of becoming terrorists, and that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.”

The first version of the travel, sprung on the public a week after Trump was inaugurated, was executed so clumsily that it created confusion at the borders and chaos at the airports, even for some people legally eligible to enter the United States. Trump later tweeted that haste was crucial in order to keep “bad dudes” from rushing in before his travel ban took hold.

Haste is not a word typically associated with judicial review. The Supreme Court has ordered lawyers to file papers quickly — so the court can decide by the end of June whether to hear the case next fall. In the meantime, the Justice Department has asked the high court to issue an emergency ruling allowing the long-stalled ban to go forward pending any final decision on its constitutionality.

Rather than exerting so much effort on a travel ban of dubious utility and constitutionality, the Trump administration would do well to focus on defeating the Islamic State militarily in Iraq and Syria; using intelligence to detect and disrupt terror plots; and figuring out better ways to vet potentially dangerous people — from whatever country of origin.

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